Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Theater, theater...

I've been catching up with my theatergoing at a tremendous rate lately. Last weekend, I caught "The Jazz Age" at the Blank, which featured the fabulous Jeremy Gabriel as Ernest Hemingway, and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at the Rubicon, featuring the also fabulous Joe Spano.

"The Jazz Age" was great. I really enjoyed it. More than expected! I knew it would be well-produced, as the Blank does a great job putting up plays in its small theater. (They did an excellent job with my play "Heads," I thought.) I wasn't sure that there was more to say about F. Scott Fitzgerald's relationship with Ernest Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald, though. The play is really a series of scenes that chart the oddly charged friendship between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, as Zelda tries to get in the way. A three-piece jazz combo accompanies the action on the stage and fills the places in between. The play has a firm point of view, but leaves a lot of room for the audience (not to mention the actors) to fill in -- which I like. The fellow who plays Fitzgerald is on the TV show Brothers & Sisters -- I'm not familiar with him, but he was good. Jeremy is a great young Hemingway -- masculine, self-assured, and then oddly vulnerable. A great foil for Fitzgerald, who is emotional, uncertain and ultimately unwilling to put his friendship with EH over his fraught relationship with his frustrated and mentally unstable wife. If you like "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway (it's one of my favs), you'll like this, I wager...

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a tremendous play by Mr. Edward Albee. And the Rubicon, which is way the heck out in Ventura, did a tremendous job staging it. Julie Briggs and I did a Sunday road trip to see their final matinee performance, and I was so glad we did! We'd previously visited the Rubicon to see Joe Spano in a one-man show about Buckminster Fuller. It was fabulous, too! Joe Spano was in "Hill Street Blues" a long time ago, and occasionally guest-stars nowadays on NCIS. But on stage you can really see him shine. Playing George, an actor has to be just right -- smashed down by life and wife, but ultimately as strong and brutal as she is. Their Martha was amazing -- a whiskey-soaked voice and earthy sexuality and brutality was matched only by her vulnerability at just the right moments. The young couple were perfect. But it's always hard to remember to mention them when you see a good George and Martha -- everything else pales in comparison to their relationship. All four were smart actors, the language was sublime (oh, Mr. Albee!), the set was beautifully details and functional. I stood up to cheer the play and performance afterward, and I'm not one drawn to my feet at the drop of a hat.

A stellar theater weekend!

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